At some point in the past, I lost the ability to draft. That is, I was no longer able to simply write down my thoughts as they came without my inner editor rearing his ugly head and bringing my creative process to a screeching halt. Everything needed polish as soon as it hit the page.
The loss of this ability likely coincided with the advent of word processing software as my dominant writing medium. The tranistory nature of words on a virtual page make it so easy to just backspace over anything and everything that gives my inner editor pause. Back when I was writing on real paper with real lead (or ink), erasing errors was enough of an effort that I just pushed ahead. Those “errors” got evaluated once I was done, and resulted in another draft if I couldn’t live with the original composition.
Any remaining vestige of drafting as an art was further buried by my habit of procrastinating on papers during college. Writing a paper the night before it was due required perfection on the first attempt.
In an ironic twist, it may be writing for college that restores my ability to draft. One of the classes I am taking this term is a teaching methods course that focuses on writing, and one of the methods we’re learning is the formation of writing circles.
These are not your traditional writing circles that focus on critiquing the work of its members. Instead, the purpose is to boost confidence within the writer by creating a low-risk environment where they are free to just write. The circle chooses a topic and time is set aside for a quick write based on that topic. The writing can be in any genre, or mode, desired: poem, letter, essay, memoir, short story. The point is to write as much as you can within the allotted time.
In class, we have 5 minutes to write in a journal before we share with our circle. I have found the process quite liberating, and might even start a local writing circle based on these principles over the summer. I don’t think I will revert back to writing a first draft on paper, but I am retraining my mental process to allow for the freedom of just putting my thoughts into words without any oversight from my inner editor.
Have you lost the art of drafting? Do you keep a writing journal, or write your first drafts on paper before starting a Word doc? Would you consider going back to paper? Share your thoughts on drafting in the comments.